Tabletop Kickstarter Alert: ‘Cauldron Master’

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Cauldron Master witch cards.
Three of the witch cards from Cauldron Master. The lower the number in the top left corner, the earlier the witch will go in the turn. The symbols at the bottom denote the number and type of ingredients the witch can collect. The later in the turn you go, the more ingredients you can collect, if there’s any left. Images Copyright: Alley Cat Games.

Cauldron Master is a quick play, witch-themed card game. It’s the second Kickstarter from Alley Cat games, who last year  brought us the successfully funded Lab WarsIn this game, you compete against your opponents to create the best spells by grabbing the finest ingredients first.

At a Glance: 

The game takes about 15 minutes to play and is for 2-4 players. The aim is to pick up spell components of different colors and combine them to make the biggest scoring spells. Collecting spell components of the same name means scoring more points, but you don’t always get to pick what you want. The game is looking for funding on Kickstarter, with a modest funding target and an entry level as low as $15 (£12).

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

Components:

The game consists of a single deck of cards comprising of:

  • 20 Witch cards (4 sets of 5)
  • 50 Ingredient cards (of 3 colors: Green, Orange, and Red)
  • 12 Cauldron cards (4 sets of 3)
  • 9 Elixir Cards that give each player a hidden objective with which they can score bonus points
  • 1 Favor of Hectate card—essentially a first player marker

How to Play:

A prototype rulebook is available, here. Note, this is not the final version.

Each player is given three Cauldron cards. Each cauldron has a number and type of ingredients that can be placed into it, either 2, 3, or 5. To score points from a particular cauldron you have to put the right number of the required ingredients into it. Ingredients only score once a Cauldron is full. Why not just use the two ingredient cauldron all the time? Well, the more ingredients of the same name the spell has, the more it scores.

The ingredients cards are placed face-up on the table, 8 in a 2-player game, 10 for 3, and 12 if there are 4 players. These face-up ingredients are the only ones the players can take. The remaining ingredients form the Ingredients Deck.

There are 5 types of Witch card in the game. Players are given one of each.

Each player is given a random Elixir card.

Cauldron Master Ingredients
Healthy nutritious snacks, or spell ingredients. You decide! Image copyright Alley Cat Games. Artwork not final.

The game can then begin.

Each player starts by deciding which witch they want to use. Players’ chosen witches are revealed simultaneously. The player with the lowest rated witch will pick first from the available ingredients. The lower the rating of the witch, the worse the cards it can pick will be. I.e., The Apprentice, rated 1, will always go first, but it can only take 1 Green or Orange card. The 5 rated Goddess will always go last but can take 2 cards of any color the player needs.

The rub is that, should there by no cards left in the ingredients pile when it gets to your turn, you walk out with nothing. Since the 3 rated Herbalist can take three cards, waiting with the Goddess can be a risky business. Lab Wars had a very similar mechanic to determine who played first. It adds a fun, outwitting element to the game.  

In the event of a tie in witch rating, the game uses a first player marker mechanic to resolve the result. This is the Favor of Hectate card.

After the witches are revealed, each player takes a turn in the order designated by their witches. They take the ingredients specified by their witch and place them in one of their cauldrons. Cauldrons may not be over-filled.

If a player fills a cauldron, they may score the points of its ingredients. Use of multiple cards of the same name scores more points than several cards of the same color but a different name (i.e., 3 eye of newts scores more than 1 eye, 1 wing of bat, and 1 pig’s foot). Orange cards score more than green, and red more than orange. Three green cards of the same type will get you 6 points. Three red cards of the same name, a whopping 24 points. Points are scored on a piece of paper. If a player has fulfilled the terms of their Elixir card, they score the bonus points stated.

Once a player has finished his turn, play passes to the player with the next lowest rated witch. Any gaps left in the face-up ingredients are NOT filled. The next player may only choose from the remaining ingredients. As stated above, this means that the ingredients may all be gone before the final player can take any.

Once all the players have played and chosen their ingredients, the witches used in that round are put to one side. The face-up ingredients are replenished from the ingredients deck, and each player chooses another witch. We are now ready for another round. After five rounds all the witches will have been used. If there are still ingredients left to take, each player receives another full hand of witches and play continues.

The game continues until all of the ingredients have been taken. After that, the points are totaled and a winner declared.

Cauldron Master Hand
A sample hand. Three witches have been played and those Cauldrons are getting full. Cards shown are most definitely prototype versions and will change.

The Verdict

Cauldron Master is a great little palate cleanser or ice breaker. It’s a fun, simple-to-learn game that doesn’t take very long to play. You can easily have two or three hands in under 30 minutes. Being a single deck of cards, it’s easy to transport, and pledging won’t break the bank. I’ve only seen prototype artwork, but it has a fun and atmospheric aesthetic too.

My boys (ages 8 & 11) have enjoyed playing Cauldron Master, and we’ve played a few hands with non-gameplaying friends, who have also enjoyed it. All in all, the team at Alley Cat games have another great little game on their hands and a well thought out Kickstarter that I’m sure will attract enough interest to fund the game.

Go check it out. It’s kind of magic!

Disclaimer. I was sent a prototype deck to playtest. 

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